Much to my dismay, it’s a mixed bag that the ol’ Donald, who, if you have not heard, is running for President, has been in the press lately in the context of American Evangelicalism, of which I am loosely a part.
I say “much to my dismay” because it pains my heart that some self-professing Christians seem to support Donald Trump as, not only a viable presidential candidate but have come out in support of him. As you may have heard, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently endorsed Donald Trump for President.
I say “it’s a mixed bag” because at least this has caused toe “mainstream media” to try and understand Evangelicalism, even if it’s just to say: “Are some of you people really considering voting for this guy who so openly and adamantly opposes so many of your views?!” For example, CNN recently posted “3 questions evangelicals should ask about Donald Trump“. Have we really come to this point where the American Church is being told by CNN why a potential presidential candidate is simply not sympatico with our stated beliefs?
Even with all of this, there may yet to be some good to come of this socio-political fiasco identity crisis. Rightly or wrongly, Christianity has long held a special place at the table of American culture. It has been the assumed religion. So much so that many claim this to be a “Christian nation”. This is dangerous for Christianity because it implies that following Jesus is somehow equatable with the “American Dream”. It is not and it seems that there is a growing number of people coming to believe that the predominant version of Christianity practiced in America is not “Christianity” at all but something called “moralistic therapeutic deism” (oh look, I wrote about this very thing!).
As a church planting pastor, I do think it’s worth seriously considering the fact that some people who claim to be Christians have publicly come out in support of Donald Trump’s bid for the White House. What, if anything does this say about the version of Christianity adopted by many in the United States? We are left with some serious questions regarding the heart of of how Christianity is or is not practiced.
Trump clearly plays on a competitive spirit. What does the Bible say about trying to get ahead at the possible expense of others? Trump talks tough with threats of violence to adversaries. What does the Bible say about how we should treat others, even our enemies? Trump brags that he has never asked forgiveness. Not even from God. What does the Bible say . . . do I really even have to finish this one? Trump says that he will deport the refugees and build a wall around our suburb. What does the Bible say about how we should treat the foreigner? Those less fortunate? Those seeking safety and security?Trump has repeatedly left his current wife for his next. What does the Bible say about the importance of marriage? Trump has repeatedly denigrated women. What does the Bible say about equality? Trump has repeated denigrated anyone he disagrees with. What does the Bible say about how we use our words? What does the Bible say about the relationship between our words and what’s in our hearts? I could keep going but I’ve even exhausted myself.
What I do want to consider is the saddening fact that those people who do claim to be Christians and express support for Donald Trump may, in fact, suffer from what I have dubbed “gospel deficiency”. We don’t have time (or the patience right now) to address every question raised in the previous paragraph, but I would like us to consider some generalities when it comes to the outlook on life assumed by the Bible for those brought to life by the Gospel (the good news of who Jesus is and what He’s done).
Consider just a few verses in light of Trump’s campaign and public persona:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)
How can people who claim to love Jesus consider supporting a candidate like Trump? I believe that the answer is not political but theological. If you support Trump it’s because you don’t fully understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for life and how we should live. In fact, it is likely that you suffer from Gospel Deficiency. I’m not saying that you can’t be saved and support Donald Trump. Far be it from me to judge someone’s heart. But it does seem that in order to support Donald Trump, you must turn a blind eye to many of the things God says to describe His people.
You can be alive but be iron deficient. I suppose you can be a Christian and suffer from Gospel Deficiency as well. You believe enough to put your faith in Jesus for salvation but not enough to know that Jesus tells us that our hearts should not focus not found in this world (Matthew 6:21) and to be anxious for nothing (Matthew 6:25:-34). Paul tells us to consider others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:1-11). You can identify as a Christian but the truth is that if the Truth has set you free, you will reject principles based on fear, prejudice and anger while Donald Trump openly accepts the “mantle of anger“. When the Gospel takes root, we begin to flower with kindness, meekness, self-control, (Galatians 5:22-23) all things conspicuously absent from Trump’s public persona.
I suppose the real issue I’m wrestling with is this: I just don’t see how you can understand biblical teaching and then support someone like Donald Trump for anything other than class clown.
Can you help me understand?